Intentional or not, Luc Picard’s Cross My Heart has a lot of audacity. Starting out as a serviceable family drama set in 1970, Picard takes his story into one ludicrous direction after another while keeping a straight face, and at times it’s hard not to wonder if he’s daring us to blink.
Set in Montreal during the FLQ crisis -- in which a terrorist group kidnapped two government officials and made Pierre Trudeau invoke the War Measures Act -- Cross My Heart deals with the teenage Manon (Milya Corbeil-Gauvreau) and her young brother Mimi (Anthony Bouchard), who find their own lives in disarray. Their father is dying from cancer and their mother can’t handle the stress of having to take care of her husband while raising two children, so she arranges to have Manon and Mimi put into foster care, where they’ll be separated and sent to different families. The tumultuous situation in Montreal turns into a reflection of the ambiguity in Manon’s life, knowing her family’s about to be torn apart.
It turns out that the FLQ’s kidnapping is a source of inspiration for Manon, and it’s at this point where Picard’s story goes wild. In order to ensure her and Mimi stay together, Manon convinces two of her cousins to kidnap her elderly neighbour (Clare Coulter) and hide out in a hunting cabin, where they can all live together as a family unit while tricking the cops into thinking they’ve been taken hostage by terrorists. It goes without saying that Manon’s plan is insane, but Picard makes sure it works out, with musical montages and cute moments between characters showing this illegal arrangement might just work out. By the time the kidnap victim warms up to her captors after they ask her to be their grandma, it feels like Picard himself has succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome.
As crazy as Cross My Heart becomes, it’s fully dedicated to the story it wants to tell, and dedication can go a long way. Picard works well with his ensemble, and he directs everything with a level of ease and confidence that keeps the film about as watchable as your average cable drama. By the time the police start catching up to Manon and her crew, it’s hard not to root for them. And when little Mimi ends up brandishing a rifle in a standoff with police, you might as well go with it because you’ve made it this far into the film anyway. Despite its factually-based setting, Cross My Heart is a ridiculous fantasy; it’s a pretty funny one too.